As part of our series looking at the lesser known and more unusual ferry crossings, this post takes a look at ferry routes around the Glasgow area.
The River Clyde flows to the sea near the Scottish city of Glasgow and ferry service has been around for centuries up and down the length of the river. Bridges and tunnels have replaced many of these ferries as roadways were changed to carry automobiles. The only ferry route still in existence is the Renfrew Ferry. It crosses the Clyde near Glasgow City Centre and connects Yoker and Renfrew. Much of the industry in this area was shipbuilding and workers needed passage across the river to and from their jobs in the shipyards bordering the river. Several ferry services now defunct served that function.
Years ago, the ferry between Erksine and Old Kilpatrick on the western side of Glasgow carried passengers across the lowest crossing on the river. In addition, a ferry that crossed the Clyde between Partick and Govan and situated where the River Kelvin empties into the Clyde 4 km west of Glasgow City Centre was used in the Middle Ages to ferry cattle across the river, but was never used to ferry automobiles.
Whiteinch, originally the name of an island in the River Clyde that vanished when the river was dredged to allow passage of ships built in the area’s shipyards, was a ferry line that connected the Scotstoun and Partick neighborhoods of Glasgow. The Whiteinch ferry opened in the 19th century as a rowing ferry — the ship was converted to steam in 1891. It carried both vehicle and passenger traffic from 1905 to 1963.
It is difficult to construct a bridge over the River Clyde or tunnel underneath at Renfrew, so the Renfrew Ferry continues on. The still-running Renfrew Ferry was originally slightly upstream on the River Clyde and crossed a stretch of water only two hundred or so metres wide at what is now the Braehead Shopping Centre. After carrying only passengers for decades, the Renfrew Ferry began carrying automobiles in the 1950s. This mode, however, ended in 1984 when the Clyde Tunnel opened just three km upstream. One of the line’s original car ferries can still be seen anchored at Broomielaw near Glasgow City Centre where it has become a popular nightspot called, appropriately enough, Renfrew Ferry.
From 1984 to 2010, the Renfrew Ferry continued to carry passengers on two medium-sized ships, one named the MV Yoker Swan and the other, the MV Renfrew Rose. A new company, Clydelink, run by Silvers Marine of Argyll, took over operation of the Renfrew Ferry in 2010 with a smaller boat that carries up to a dozen passengers. The Renfrew Ferry makes its first run each day at 6:30 AM; the last is at 9:30 PM. Buses are available for continuing the journey for ferry passengers from both the northern and southern terminus points of the ferry route.